The Best Kind of Underdog Story

If you’ve been following the March Madness basketball tournament – the men’s and/or the women’s – then you’ve likely experienced two things: a busted bracket and some thrilling games to watch. There have been nail-biters and buzzer-beaters at nearly every turn, causing the tournament to live up to its storied nickname.

There’s something truly special about amateur sports. Watching young people work hard and give their all to achieve a goal is inspiring. Some of these young athletes have aspirations of playing professionally, but most will not progress to that level. For them, the moment we see them on our TVs is the culmination of years of work and devotion to the game they love. You can’t help but to root for them.

I don’t know about you, but I particularly enjoy the upsets – when the underdog overcomes the favorite to claim victory against all odds. Underdog stories in all facets of life give us a unique sense of hope that anything is possible. As former University of Kentucky basketball coach Adolph Rupp once memorably said, “That’s why we play the game.” Nothing need be a foregone conclusion.

When I think of underdogs, I can’t help but think of our Littles at Big Brothers Big Sisters. All of these kids have within them the potential to do anything, and yet so many of them have been overlooked or even written off due to life circumstances and systemic barriers that they didn’t choose.

With the supportive presence of a mentor, however, these amazing young people begin to dream, plan for, and realize what they and others assumed was impossible. Because a mentor believes in them, these young people begin to believe in themselves. When that happens, the narrative shifts. The underdog is in it to win it.

Young people who have a Big Brother or Big Sister improve their academic performance, have better relationships with family and peers, have higher self-esteem, adopt positive academic and career aspirations, embrace healthier attitudes regarding risk-taking behaviors, and avoid contact with the criminal justice system. Mentors don’t “give” these things to kids. The kids possess amazing talents and abilities; mentors simply help them see and embrace them. Just as a good coach brings out the best in a player, Bigs help bring out the best in Littles.

We have unique mentoring opportunities based on an interest in sports, the arts, or career readiness. The time commitment is as little as 4 hours a month and you can even volunteer with a spouse, partner, or friend, or as a group with coworkers. Join us during this “Match” Madness season and be matched with a Little who shares your interests. It’s all about building a friendship while having fun.

There are dozens of kids in Butler County who are waiting for a Big Brother or Big Sister to be their mentor and champion. You can be part of the best kind of underdog story – but only if you get in the game. Join us at bbbsbutler.org/match-madness.

-Becky Perkins

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